Gateways to Knowledge

Research project in preparation by dr. Feike Dietz: ‘Gateways to Knowledge. Children’s Books as Tools of Information Management in the Early Modern Low Countries’

Project Description
Public Summary
Research Corpus
On Line Resources

Project Description

This project aims to understand how early modern children’s books taught youngsters to participate in the new knowledge culture that arose after the advent of print. How did young people learn to process massive quantities of new information, and deal with the impact of this veritable information revolution? The hypothesis of this project is that children’s books (1500-1800) – in themselves a contribution to the information overload – acted as gateways to knowledge and opened up the early modern knowledge culture to youngsters: they revealed a growing awareness that children needed to be trained in specific information management skills, and were gradually adapted to teach these skills to youngsters.

Exciting new scholarship on the rise of a new knowledge culture in early modern Europe has demonstrated how knowledge production benefited from improved skills in information management among adult readers. Advanced reading competences – i.e. the skills to evaluate, structure and interpret large amounts of information, and to turn this into knowledge – enabled adults to produce new knowledge. An important missing piece in this puzzle is how young people were educated to deal with this increasingly sophisticated knowledge culture, and how the medium of the book was exploited as a tool of information management.

The project focuses on the Low Countries as an early example of a highly literate culture. Following a diachronic and interdisciplinary approach, it aims to explore 1) early modern perceptions of children, knowledge and information, 2) the teaching of information management skills by children’s books, and 3) the reception of these information management skills by the young. The results will not just shed new light on the secret success of education in the early modern knowledge culture, but also provide a historical perspective to present-day discussions on information overload, media literacy and youth education.

Public Summary

For a public summary in Dutch: follow this link

Research Corpus

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On Line Resources

For Dutch digital resources: follow this link